Have you ever eaten at your desk? The likely answer is yes, but not perhaps to the extent that software developers in Silicon Valley are doing, where hundreds of technology workers are getting by without any solid food until 7pm, subsisting solely on a thick beige shake. These liquid meals from companies like Soylent and People Chow are inexpensive and just involve adding water to a pre-packaged powder which includes Magnesium, Zinc, vitamins and sometimes adding oils for extra flavour.
These products have become so popular that there are now six month waiting lists for initial orders. Powdered food has long been popular with athletes and dieters seeking extra supplements, but these new formulations are reaching new audiences due to their lower levels of protein and sugar. Rob Rhinehart, a software engineer came up with the idea for Soylent in 2013 while working long hours at a wireless communications company. He realized he was eating poorly and wanted to create something that could be “universally applicable” for hard-working people like himself. The company is said to have shipped more than the equivalent of six million ‘meals’ across the United States.
The taste of these shakes has been likened to bland, gritty pancake batter, but for some the appeal of something quick and cheap overrides the experience. In San Francisco the cost of eating out can be upwards of $50, whereas a week’s worth of Soylent totals $85. The time ‘wasted’ by eating is, in Silicon Valley parlance a “pain point” even for the highest echelon of techie. Elon Musk, Tesla’s founder, once said, “If there was a way that I couldn’t eat so I could work more, I would not eat. I wish there was a way to get nutrients without sitting down for a meal”.